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Join in Bishop's Stortford Choral Society's Rachmaninoff season

Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers”, All-Night Vigil, is considered one of the big classics in the choral repertoire – and Bishop’s Stortford Choral Society is offering singers the chance to learn it for a performance in the spring.

The 20th-century Russian composer’s music is romantic and has always been popular, winning awards in his homeland and being used in films and songs; the Adagio from his Second Piano Concerto is in Brief Encounter and in All by Myself by Eric Carmen, covered by Celine Dion and Sheryl Crow among others.

He laboured to write and revise his Second Symphony before he first conducted it to great applause. But he wrote his Vespers, his second choral work, in two weeks in 1915 and considered it one of his finest pieces.

NCS 2016 2017 season, NCS Rachmaninov 20170624. (26395335)
NCS 2016 2017 season, NCS Rachmaninov 20170624. (26395335)

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s music is quintessentially Russian and his heart was in his homeland, but he sought exile from Russia after the 1917 Revolution. The Vespers, along with other church music, was banned from the concert hall in the Soviet Union, although it could still be heard in some churches.

He did not return to Russia. He died eight days after his 70th birthday in 1943, never appreciating that the Union of Soviet composers had written to congratulate him on his birthday. At his request, the fifth movement of the Vespers was sung at his funeral, but he was buried in New York rather than Moscow.

The Vespers is sung unaccompanied and involves rich harmonies, which will really resonate in the soaring acoustics of Hockerill's All Saints’ Church. Prokofiev said that its “miracle is in its fusion of the simple and the sincere".

Richard Brain directs the Bishop's Stortford Choral Society concert at the Methodist Church. (26395408)
Richard Brain directs the Bishop's Stortford Choral Society concert at the Methodist Church. (26395408)

Choirs love its wonderful mix of peaceful and stirring music, and the emotion from singing the slowly evolving chants and building the dramatic cores of the movements. Richard Brain, the choral society’s musical director, will be working with the choir to secure a rich, well-blended performance.

Bishop’s Stortford Choral Society’s open rehearsal takes place at Water Lane United Reformed Church on Thursday (January 16) at 7.45pm. The concert will be held on March 14 at 7.30pm in All Saints’ Church.

The choral society is a group of around 100 singers. It sings large-scale choral music by new and established composers and holds its concerts locally, most often in Stortford. It rehearses on Thursday evenings from September to July at the United Reformed Church. The choir will be performing Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius on June 27 in Saffron Hall.

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